Just over a week ago I went to the exhibition "Art and Life 1920 - 1931" at the gallery at Kettles Yard in Cambridge. I had been looking forward to this exhibition very much and I was not disappointed. The exhibition "examines the artistic partnership of Ben Nicholson and Winifred Nicholson in the 1920s and their friendship and collaboration with Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis and the potter William Staite Murray".
Kettles Yard gallery is quite a small exhibition space but well worth visiting and not too exhausting to get round (in comparison to say the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate Modern which was fabulous but with 17 rooms you needed stamina). Having visited Cornwall many times I am familiar with the work of Ben and Winifred Nicholson and Alfred Wallis but less familiar with the work of Christopher Wood or the potter William Staite Murray (the gallery at Kettles Yard had an exhibition last year on the work of Christopher Wood). It is the naive style of these paintings that I particularly enjoy and that I look to for inspiration. The exhibition shows how Alfred Wallis' (an untrained artist) style of painting influenced Ben and Winifred Nicholson at this time. Often Ben and Winifred painted the same landscape and in one example shown in the exhibition there are three paintings of the same view - Northrigg Hill in Cumberland - two by each of the Nicholsons and one by Christopher Wood. Of the three I think I prefer Christopher Wood's warmer colours or Winifred's softer shades to the cooler colours of Ben Nicholson's version. Later Ben Nicholson's work becomes more abstract which I am less keen on (his marriage to Winifred ends and in 1938 he marries the sculptor Barbara Hepworth). That is not to say I do not like any of his paintings, my favourite in this exhibition is “Plate, Cup and Jug” which can be found in the Kettles Yard database .
If you go to the bottom of the page of the Kettles Yard website you will find a collections database, select the artist whose work you would like to see and you will find some of the work by these artists. Some of the paintings in the exhibition are from private collections so you won't find these on the database. What I found particularly exciting is that the database holds a very large number of paintings by Alfred Wallis and, although he is known largely for his boat and harbour paintings, I really like his tree and landscape pictures which you don't see very often.
Whilst visiting Kettles Yard I purchased the book produced to accompany the "Art and Life" exhibition which I thought very thorough and good value at just under £20. The exhibition is on until 11th May, 2014 and admission is free.The picture below shows a collage of fabrics and papers and which also includes an Alfred Wallis house that I have cut from a postcard. The collage represents snippets of letters/conversations exchanged between friends. The Alfred Wallis postcard I have used I have purchased many times, the original picture White Houses - Hales Down near St. Ives is in this exhibition and is also on the database.